Around its Caldera, the most spectacular island in the Cyclades
Santorini has become the epitome of Greece: this photo of a bright white chapel and its blue dome, overlooking from the top of its cliffs a vast caldera with a wide sea, adorning both guidebooks and postcards, has already travelled around the world many times!
And yet, Santorini has no equal in Greece or anywhere else on the planet! Its configuration is indeed unique: a caldera immersed under the sea, a volcano still active in its centre, and these huge cliffs, with gradations of colours evoking all the geological caprices that the island has witnessed, this landscape can not be imitated!
To this grandiose setting, the Greeks of Santorini have contributed their expertise in architectural aesthetics: white-painted villages perched on cliff tops, or overlooking the island's farmland, a multitude of small blue-roofed chapels, endemic vines, low to the ground, worked to adapt to the arid conditions of this volcanic land... this is what brings charm to the spectacular side of Santorini, its authentic face.
At the same time, Santorini has developed to the point of becoming an internationally renowned destination: French and Europeans, but also Americans, Japanese, Indians or Chinese rub shoulders, in the alleys of Fira, the lively capital, or Oia, the famous village, as well as on the summit of Nea Kameni, the volcano itself! Selfies are everywhere, the excursion boats are like clockwork, the souvenir shops display their colourful stalls...
Santorini is a well-oiled machine, often running at full speed! A cosmopolitan island with an atmosphere and excitement unlike any other in Greece.
To these busy places however, Santorini still contrasts ancient, more peaceful villages where the remains of ancient Venetian kastros stand, such as Pyrgos, Emborio, Megalochori or Akrotiri. At the corner of a kafeneio lost in an alleyway, or a taverna with a view over the sea, the Greek spirit is alive and well in places.
When you think of Greece, you usually think of sunny holidays, and Santorini is generously served in this respect. As in all the Greek islands, you can of course take advantage of the Mediterranean: the water is good, clear and generally calm, provided you take shelter from the meltem, a summer north wind capable, on its worst days, of decorating an ox! Despite the difficult relief, Santorini offers a varied panel of beautiful beaches: Perissa, Vlychada, the Red Beach... Beware, on the shores of this volcanic island, black sand is a must.
Santorini's notoriety, then, is no accident. It is also an asset for those who wish to stay there: endowed, despite its small size, with an international airport, and a busy passenger port, Santorini ranks as one of the most easily accessible Greek islands.
The plethora of accommodation on offer (varied in range of comfort and price!) and the multitude of sporting activities, leisure activities and sites to visit, give Santorini a chance to appeal to everyone, given the summer crowds!
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3 hilltop villages with sea views, blue-roofed houses and not (too) many tourists... Santorini has it all!
How to get there?
There are two options:
1) By plane: the fastest solution, many direct flights (and often low cost) connect the UK and Santorini in season (April-October), from London airports.
It is also possible to have a layover in Athens, then take a domestic flight to Santorini (45min flight)..
2) By boat:there are several options here too, with many ferry companies passing through Santorini from the port of Piraeus (Athens) or from other Cycladic islands.
The Blue Star ferries run daily to Santorini with an early morning departure (8 hours crossing): an economical but slow solution.
Alternatively, the fast (and much more expensive) Seajet boats also connect Santorini to the port of Piraeus (5 hours at best). There are also fast boat connections to Santorini from Heraklion in Crete every morning (2-hour crossing).
Where to stay?
Santorini offers a wide choice of accommodation, from luxury hotels with jacuzzis and views of the caldera to small rooms for rent in local homes: it all depends on what you want to do on your holiday. One thing's for sure: the further you get from the caldera, the more reasonable the prices get... Always book in advance in summer as Santorini gets jampacked!
When to go?
- Early spring (April-May) is an ideal time to discover Santorini: the island is still calm, and even flowery and colourful, which is rare!
- The sea, on the other hand, is still a bit cool, but this is not the case from the end of September-October, which is also a pleasant back-season.
- In summer, Santorini is at its busiest, there are people everywhere, but also the maximum of atmosphere: it's up to you! This is the period when the Meltem, the north wind, blows, which agitates the sea, freshens the air and sometimes blocks the boats!
- In winter, Santorini reveals itself in a completely different light, but many addresses (restaurants, hotels) are closed.
What documents to you need?
As a UK citizen, you must show a valid passport to enter Greece.
How long should I stay in Santorini?
You can easily stay 1 week in Santorini without getting bored: even if the island is small, it is full of places of interest.
Thanks to its airport and its numerous boat lines, Santorini is also an excellent gateway to the Cyclades, which can be combined with other islands of the archipelago (e.g. Naxos, Paros, Milos, Mykonos, Amorgos...).
Why go to Santorini?
For those who love to see the sights, and admire real postcard landscapes, Santorini is the perfect destination with its splendid caldera, its volcano and its white villages.
In the Cyclades, Santorini is also a very lively island, offering its visitors a host of activities and entertainment to fill their days.
On the other hand, Santorini may disappoint a bit the big beach lovers, as well as those who like the authenticity and calm of the Greek islands: there are other islands for that!
Santorini: what to eat (and drink)?
There's not much growing on Santorini! The main crop is the vine, which has always been spared by phylloxera: Santorini's wine deserves to be known! For example, vinsanto, a very sweet dessert wine made from sun-dried grapes, or assyrtiko, a very special mineral white grape variety, endemic to Santorini.
On the plate, be sure to try a Santorini fava (split pea purée), grilled white aubergines, the island's small cherry tomatoes and tomatokeftedes (tomato fritters), as well as capers.
Where to eat in Santorini?
The best place to go is to find an authentic Greek taverna serving the specialities of the country: moussaka, grilled vegetables and fish, lamb chops, tzatziki and Greek salads.
There are also many trendy, even posh, restaurants serving international cuisine of varying degrees of inspiration. Otherwise, Santorini is an international destination, with everything from fast food chains to Chinese restaurants.
Transportation in Santorini
The KTEL bus network serves the entire island from the bus station in Fira, the capital. The lines serve all the main villages as well as the port and airport. Cheap, but not always convenient. Beware, timetables change with the season!
The most common option is to rent a vehicle to get around the island: a simple scooter can be enough for two people, but a car offers the best comfort/safety ratio. It is possible to rent upon arrival at the port or airport, and in almost every village.
What to avoid in Santorini
Who says big tourist destination says tourist catcher: beware of many taverns or restaurants that are too flashy, you can eat very badly there!
Forget about renting quads: they are noisy and congest the roads, a plague in Santorini.
Santorini: what to bring back?
Santorini wines, Vinsanto, the local fava, a box of capers are the main products to bring back. You will also find countless Santorini souvenirs of all kinds (tshirts, bags, volcanic stone, pottery, jewellery, magnets, etc.) during your walks.
An arrival by boat in Santorini, although longer than by plane, offers you the unique spectacle of arriving in the caldera by sea: not to be missed!
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